A China Odyssey is a guest post by Jennifer DeCristoforo, the author of Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts.
I’m so pleased to be invited to do a guest post for Globe Trottin’ Kids. For many years I have devoted a big part of my life helping to grow world citizens, so I’m incredibly inspired by all the wonderful content that Julie shares on this site and blog.
My fascination with world cultures has taken many directions, including teaching elementary art in the public schools, world travels, and authoring and publishing a book on Chinese crafts and culture. My most important ‘world citizen’ feat to date, is becoming mom to my daughter, born in Jiangzi Province, China in 2002.
Understandably, I spend a lot of time pondering all things Chinese, even though my day-to-day life is spent in a coastal town in Maine, where I live with my (now teenaged) daughter and work as a project manager for a higher education tech company. Actually, my rather rural, conspicuously non-diverse environment allows me a huge opportunity to share what I know and what I love; getting crafty as a vehicle to teach the rich traditions, art techniques and celebrations of China to even the most culturally unexposed kids.
When I became a mom, of course my world went topsy-turvy… this was my first (and last) child and I was already in my forties. If “new mom” stuff wasn’t enough, her Dad and I were traveling across the globe to bring her home, knowing virtually nothing of her history, and were literally “immigrating” a human being in the process! (And I’ll save the 2003 SARS quarantine stories for another time!)
Never before had I felt more vividly how we are all connected and in the blink of an eye, our worlds can be one. And so our life as a multicultural, multiracial family began. Our “early years’ were spent more with adoption issues; both psychological and developmental, trying to give my girl her best start in life. But even then, I was always conscious of being very transparent about her birth history and her homeland. She was going to grow up Chinese, whether or not she was in China.
Well, fast forward to today (and it really does go fast!). Over the years I had accumulated a large collection of projects, crafts, simple Mandarin lessons, and was brimming with ideas for a craft and culture book that could be a reference to anyone that wanted to learn or teach about China. I tell people it’s the book I wish I had when my own daughter was young.
Lucky Bamboo Book of Crafts; Over 100 Projects & Ideas Celebrating Chinese Culture is a collection of hands-on project instructions, as well as a resource on Chinese culture and how craft tradition and artistry is a part of that history. I set out to make the book fun, interesting, and with enough simple ideas so even young children could make and learn. I think there is really something for everyone!
After years of hard work, the book was finally published and since then it has been such a gratifying tool to meet new people, share my daughter’s culture, and participate in all kinds of events for Chinese holidays, educational conferences, and even schools, libraries and camps.
We love Chinese New Year, a popular holiday worldwide, not just in China. I use it as a launching pad for fresh craft ideas and fun lessons every lunar year. It’s a great starting point if as a parent or educator this is your first foray into Chinese culture. Learning about world cultures is an important part of everyone’s education and such a great way to feel connected. Whether it’s sharing the customs, the food, the stories and legends, the holidays, the language, the dance and music, or simply getting out a few supplies and making a craft, anyone can get on board and expand their world.
Please visit my website and blog if you would like to learn more about my book, craft projects and experiences teaching about Chinese culture.